Apple Watch Alternatives
For some, the Apple Watch is considered the gold standard of smartwatches, but whether it is or not makes no difference to Android users who couldn’t use it even if they wanted to. Smartwatches for Android users abound, and the best Apple Watch alternative that stands out from the pack is the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 because of its balanced functionality and stylish design that caters to a wider subset of users.
Best Overall: Samsung Galaxy Watch 3
Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central
After focusing for over a year on the Active models in its Galaxy Watch lineup, Samsung came back this year with a newer premium design. The slimmer frame doesn’t make the watch as small as those Active models, but there are 41mm and 45mm sizes to choose from.
The biggest design treatment setting this watch apart from others is the trusty physical rotating bezel that makes navigation feel fluid when wading through the various menus and options. You can still tap on the screen, if you want, and the combination helps make the software easier to handle.
t may be a bit odd that the top Android smartwatch runs on an operating system that isn’t developed by Google, but that’s where we’re at. Samsung’s Tizen OS is not Android, though it’s currently the best integration for Android phones, and a big reason why it’s at the top of the heap as an Apple Watch alternative. App support and availability remain a thorny issue for Samsung, but not all apps are out of reach. The integration with Spotify is excellent, even letting you store playlists offline to play with paired headphones.
Samsung tries to make up for what others won’t include in the watch by bringing in as much of its own tech as possible. The electrocardiogram (ECG) still hasn’t gone live despite FDA approval for it, but there’s a pulse oximeter (SpO2) to measure blood oxygen levels, as well as VO2 Max to gauge oxygen intake while exercising.
And all that is on top of the built-in GPS and exercise tracking. The watch can track dozens of exercises, a few of which start automatically when you get moving. Phone notifications are slick, and taking or making calls through the watch itself also feels seamless. Battery life isn’t dramatically different from previous Samsung watches, so you don’t get any inherent advantage that way. And Samsung Pay, which is more readily available now, still doesn’t support MST on this device.
Still, what ultimately makes this the best right now is the combination of hardware with a beautiful display, plus a user-friendly interface that covers much of what you’d expect as it relates to activity tracking.
- Great look and design
- Rotating bezel is great
- Vibrant screen
- Solid activity tracking features
- Comes in two sizes
- Easy to change straps
- Third-party app support still needs work
- Not a big change in battery
- No MST for Samsung Pay
The fullest package currently available
For a smartwatch that covers a lot of bases for Android users, the Galaxy Watch 3 is the one to beat.
Best Runner Up: Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2
Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central
Samsung corrected a key feature missing in the previous Active model by putting in a touch-sensitive bezel to emulate the physical rotating one that was a staple in the company’s prior designs. It makes a significant difference in the Galaxy Watch Active 2 in navigating the interface, offering an alternative from just tapping on the screen.
It comes in 40mm and 44mm sizes, making it an attractive option for both men and women. It’s the sleekest build Samsung has come up with to date, and the color combinations with the available straps add an extra touch of personalization. With an improved battery life lasting up to two days with heavy usage, the watch also has the stamina to keep up with an active lifestyle. The GPS tracking, unfortunately, won’t match the accuracy of bringing your phone along, which is crucial if you’re a stickler out on a run.
The app integration gets a boost with how Spotify works. It’s a genuinely effective integration that lets you play music from it exclusively on the watch. Still, as good as Tizen is, it’s sometimes hindered by the lack of interest developers put into its app ecosystem. Samsung continues to fight an uphill battle reeling in greater support, which is always a caveat to using a Tizen-based watch, but until Wear OS hits a sustained stride, it’s as good as it gets here.
- Great hardware design with capacitive bezel
- Gorgeous screen
- Solid activity tracking features
- Comes in two sizes
- Better app integration than previous models
- Third-party app support remains a struggle
- GPS run/bike tracking not as accurate as phone
Best Runner Up
An active watch done right
Android users get a solid experience with the Galaxy Watch Active 2, thanks to Tizen and an efficient design that fits well.
Best Value: Fitbit Versa 3
The Versa 3 was somewhat overshadowed by the Fitbit Sense, the company’s flagship, but it still stands out as one of the best options available. One major design change that immediately changes its usability is the new latch system for bands and straps. No more fiddling with the older latch when new straps just click in and out with ease.
Fitbit took a lot from the Versa 2 and applied it here, only it also added key features that set it apart in important ways. Built-in GPS is a big one because it means you won’t have to take your phone with you when you want to track distance or cover a route. It also includes Fitbit’s newer PurePulse 2.0 heart rate monitor for more accurate readings and better overall data collection when looking at it later in the app. There’s also the SpO2 sensor for blood oxygen levels, as well as the ability to track menstrual cycles.
Some of the Sense’s features do cross over here, particularly with phone calls and the new built-in speaker, though it’s far more a continuation of what the Versa 2 first offered. You do get Alexa, and Google Assistant is a new addition. Fitbit is still working on getting more apps to work on its platform, but it’s clearly still an uphill battle. While a small number work well, there’s still room for improvement. Fitbit Pay has grown nicely since it first launched, and the NFC chip inside this watch makes it easier to keep the phone away at points of purchase.
- Built-in GPS
- Improved heart rate tracking
- Alexa and Google Assistant integration
- Vivid screen
- Phone call integration
- Newer latch for straps
- Needs more apps
- Still no offline Spotify
Health, wellness, and payments all in one
This watch strikes a balance as one of the best for tracking daily health stats and helping in other areas.
Best for Fitness: Fitbit Sense
Source: Joe Maring / Android Central
When Fitbit first launched the Sense, not all features were live. Luckily, that’s no longer the case now the phone call and Google Assistant integration features are good to go. It adds up to a very different smartwatch from the company, but health and fitness features remain the primary focus, and those are driven by the litany of sensors inside.
The EDA (electrodermal activity) sensor measures stress by sensing small electric charges to your skin and noting your sweat levels. A new skin temperature sensor works separately when you sleep to look for fluctuations that may be a sign that you’re coming down with something. Heart rate variability also utilizes the various metrics, plus the new PurePulse 2.0 heart rate monitor to alert you of any unusually low or high beats per minute (BPM). You get the SpO2 sensor for blood oxygen levels. There’s even an ECG inside, which went live about a month after the smartwatch launched. All of this information shows up in the Fitbit app and helps provide some general metrics, like a Stress Management score.
On the fitness side, built-in GPS helps a great deal for any exercises that include distance tracking. You still get basic shortcuts to the exercises you like most, including automatic tracking for select ones. With a Fitbit Premium subscription, you can access guided workouts and programs to hit certain goals. It’s just a shame there aren’t more apps to take advantage of all the features Fitbit makes available here. Fitbit Pay also works here as a convenience for hands-free purchases.
- Vivid OLED display
- Comfortable to wear
- EDA and temperature sensors
- Built-in GPS and NFC
- Better phone integration
- Easier to change straps
- ECG still not active
- Still needs more apps
- No offline Spotify
Best for Fitness
Packing it in
Fitbit throws everything it has into the Sense, equipping it with new sensors and built-in GPS to get more done.
Best for Runners: Garmin Vivoactive 4
To start with, it’s important to note that the Vivoactive 4, which is a large 45mm size, also comes in a smaller 40mm size, though it goes by a slightly different moniker in the Vivoactive 4S. They are all but identical in what they offer, save for a larger battery in the bigger model, and a rose gold variant in the smaller one.
There are built-in GPS and 5 ATM water-resistance, making this just as good for swimming as it is for running. In the latter case, the watch can track a route without a phone, yet it also takes things further to glean insight. The newest feature is the Pulse Ox sensor to monitor blood oxygen saturation levels and respiration to track breaths taken per minute. That’s on top of the altitude acclimation for running at higher elevations.
It’s not exclusively a running watch like Garmin’s Forerunner models tend to be, but this caters heavily to runners without skimping on other fitness features. There are several different workouts available to choose from, plus the Pulse Ox sensor can be helpful in getting better sleep. Then there’s the Body Battery Energy monitor to track energy and stress levels throughout a day.
Battery life is reasonable throughout, especially when GPS is turned off. You can go up to four or five days with standard usage, but GPS takes its toll and can be the major factor in how long it lasts per charge.
- Solid running features
- Built-in GPS
- 5 ATM water-resistance
- Pulse Ox sensor
- Solid battery life
- 45mm has limited color options
- Garmin Pay needs to grow
Best for Runners
Going out for a run and clearing the air
Garmin squeezes in a variety of features into a smartwatch that not only supports runners but also track other activities.
Best Style: Michael Kors Access Bradshaw 2
Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central
First and foremost, this smartwatch comes in sizes and styles for both men and women, and initially stands out for not looking like a typical smartwatch. The classy look comes in a variety of colors, and even some extra design tweaks to add some flair to its overall appearance. It’s an objectively nice-looking watch in any of its variants and straddles the line between dressy and casual.
The 1.7-inch AMOLED screen is what sets it apart the most from a standard watch with a similar design. Running on Wear OS, it comes with the trappings of that system, including access to Google Assistant and Google Pay. It’s not necessarily the best thing to wear for rigorous workouts or runs, simply because of its weight and the fact that silicone bands are better at absorbing sweat. But as a daily activity tracker, it does the job. It even has a good level of waterproofing, making it possible to take for a swim in the pool.
Dedicated watch faces complement the customizable ones that are available. This is the kind of watch where you might want to turn on the always-on display to add to its look. Battery life isn’t exceptional, and the always-on display will sap that even faster, dropping it to 24 hours per charge.
- Classy and elegant design
- Michael Kors custom watch faces
- Built-in GPS and NFC
- Not ideal for sweaty workouts
- Could be too big for some wrists
- Battery life isn’t exceptional
A touch of luxury peppered with modern tech.
Class meets functional tech in this attractive combination that can cater to both men and women.
Best for Casual Use: Skagen Falster 3
Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central
It’s hard to put the Falster 3 in a specific box because it doesn’t really focus on one particular feature or focus. It’s a stylish 42mm watch in its own right, yet equipped enough to handle a fair bit of functionality. Wear OS has its limits, and there’s nothing branding can do about that, but despite that, this is an excellent option for casual use.
The AMOLED display is nice and vivid, while the internal components add to the overall package. Built-in GPS means the watch can handle tracking the route on a run, Google Assistant adds effective voice support and NFC makes payments as easy as tapping your wrist. Activity tracking may largely depend on what app you’re using, but in any case, the watch more than suffices for those using it to keep tabs on your average day.
Battery life is average, lasting about a day, which fits right in with a casual smartwatch, as heavy-duty users would probably find that to be a problem here. The design and styling are unique and understated all at once, fitting right in for most occasions. It is pricey for something that isn’t great at one set feature, but it checks enough boxes to be a crowd-pleaser for most.
- Excellent design
- Built-in GPS and NFC
- Space for storing music
- Battery life isn’t robust
Best for Casual Use
Offering a little bit of everything.
For the enterprising influencer or YouTuber needing some kit in the field, or at home, this kit is a pretty good place to start.
Best on a Budget: AmazFit Bip
Don’t mistake this for an Apple Watch clone, though a resemblance at first glance isn’t out of the question. The squared 1.28-inch display isn’t of the highest quality, which is understandable for a sub-$100 smartwatch. It’s largely about making compromises, particularly when it comes to the overall user experience involved. This won’t run Wear OS, Tizen, Fitbit OS, or any other known platform. So, no apps that you can integrate to expand its feature set.
What you will get is a decent collection of features you’d expect from any smartwatch, like GPS tracking, heart rate monitoring, step counting, and more. It’s the battery life that really sets it apart, lasting up to 30 days with regular use, or up to 45 days with limited notifications coming in. For a smartwatch on a tight budget and reasonable expectations, the AmazFit Bip covers the bases.
- Looks a lot like the Apple Watch
- GPS and heart rate monitor
- Outstanding battery life
- No app store whatsoever
- No way to respond to notifications
- Limited strap options
Best on a Budget
An affordable way to look like you have the real thing.
That this looks like an Apple Watch is part of the charm, but this watch pulls its weight well for the price of entry.
Finding a smartwatch isn’t hard when plenty of them are available. It’s finding the one you think will fit best on your wrist and in your lifestyle that proves to be the most elusive. The Apple Watch carries a reputation as being the example to follow, but that’s also a matter of taste and personal preference. That’s what this list is all about. The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 offers the best in integration, user experience, and durability currently available as an alternative.
It works with any Android (or iOS, for that matter) phone, and is well suited to offering something for everyone. It corrected mistakes of past Samsung smartwatches, and that’s a big reason why it sits at the top.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Ted Kritsonis loves taking photos when the opportunity arises, be it on a camera or smartphone. Beyond sports and world history, you can find him tinkering with gadgets or enjoying a cigar.
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